The interventional pulmonology team at Memorial Health System is small but mighty. Under the leadership of Dr. Summer Allen and Dr. Bobby Tullos, this team is leading the state – and the nation – with innovation and patient-centered care.
Improving lung health with technology
Memorial was the first in the state to use robotic bronchoscopy to biopsy lung nodules, diagnosing lung cancer at earlier and more treatable stages than ever before. Dr. Allen shares, “This is what I’m most passionate about – diagnosing lung cancer when it’s a tiny spot, a little tumor in the lung that’s treatable and not lethal. To be the first doctors in the state to use robotic bronchoscope is a huge accomplishment, and I’m proud of that.”
The team continues to seek the latest advancements in interventional pulmonology, including being selected as the pilot site for Olympus Select Screening. The goal of this pilot is to screen emphysema patients, ensuring early treatment options for patients and increasing their access to care. Additionally, Dr. Tullos was the first in the state to use the covered metal tracheal Y-stent for advanced lung cancer, greatly improving the patient’s ability to breathe.
“I’ve had the greatest satisfaction thus far implementing the lung volume reduction program for patients with severe emphysema. They have little left to treat them as it relates to medication, but we provide a procedure that can quickly improve their exercise capacity, confidence, and quality of life,” says Dr. Tullos.
In addition, the team has collaborated with hospital administration, Information Systems, and primary care providers to expand lung cancer screening. On the research front, Memorial was recently commended for enrolling a large amount of qualified participants in a research study aimed to develop a less invasive lung cancer screening process.
Working efficiently to provide the best outcomes
This lean team is supporting a large volume of patients each day. “We have worked to provide quality care to a high volume of patients, including reducing barriers to referral, decreasing patient waiting time for new appointments, and creating a strong team environment in clinic that supports the mission to provide the best patient care efficiently,” shares Dr. Tullos.
The team is continuously assessing the patient experience, from check in to check out. Dr. Tullos continues, “We evaluate our metrics on a regular basis, including time from presentation to procedure to diagnosis to referral for treatment. Creating a patient workflow optimizing nurse practitioner autonomy with available physician presence when collaboration is needed is key.”
Dr. Allen adds, “We’ve been together a long time, we know each other’s needs, and we work well as a team. We want to help each other.”
Supporting the Gulf Coast community
When asked what her philosophy of care is, Dr. Allen shares, “I want to provide a high level of service to my patients, treating them as customers and making sure they feel like they are heard and listened to. There have been hundreds of patients I’ve diagnosed with something because I’ve sat and listened to their story.”
Both she and Dr. Tullos love the fact that the Coast has “small town” charm. He adds, “I strive to provide the best care possible. You can see the impact you make in the community, seeing patients who came to you for lung cancer diagnosis that you helped treat or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients who couldn’t breathe and now are at a restaurant, in the grocery story, and giving you that ‘How’s your family?’ greeting.”
Award-winning care close to home
Memorial was recently rated as High Performing in COPD by U.S. News & World Report, and Dr. Allen will be honored later this year by University of Mississippi Medical School for receiving the Early Career Achievement Award. Her first article about navigational bronchoscopy will publish soon, she will be speaking at the American Thoracic Society in Washington, D.C., in May, and she recently gave a presentation in Nashville at the Chest Conference. “I’m being asked to speak at international conferences, and I feel very humbled and thankful that we have a successful program.”